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Friday, May 29, 2015

Beijing, China - Day 1

My family and I recently visited Beijing - the capital of China in April. It has always been one of the place that I would visit in my lifetime, and the only place that I actually look forward to visiting in China.

We have a total of four full days in Beijing. We decided to engaged with a tour to cover the highlights of Beijing for two days, and then have two free-and-easy days in Beijing by exploring the city ourselves. For the tour, we took from Catherine Lu Tours after reading positive feedbacks in Tripadvisor.

Day 1

Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square is the fourth largest city square in the world. A lot of Beijing's important buildings are located in the Tiananmen Square It was really huge!! Our legs felt a little tired walking around the square... and it is only our first stop in Beijing!!!!

ZhengYangMen - the south end of Tiananmen Square
National Museum of China
Great Hall of the People

Mausoleum of Mao Ze Dong
The Mausoleum of Mao Ze Dong is the final resting place of the most respectable person in China. His body was embalmed and people from all around the world are able to enter to give their respect to him. When we were there, the queue to enter was at least two hours according to our guide!
Monument to the People's Heroes
Notice the picture above, where we were queuing in a line. This is the Dragon Line. The Dragon Line is a line running north-south through Beijing on which only the emperor was allowed to walk. Important buildings such as The Imperial Palace (aka The Forbidden City), Mausoleum of Mao Ze Dong, Bird's Nest and The Cube are built along the Dragon Line with the believe of good fengshui.

Tiananmen Square is also the entrance to the famous Forbidden City of Beijing.

The Forbidden City (aka The Imperial Palace)

Tiananmen Entrance of the Forbidden City
Notice the picture of Mao Ze Dong on the building? It is a hand-painted picture and it will be replaced each year.
After entering the Tiananmen Entrance
The next gate of the Forbidden City (can't remember the name) =.=''
The famous door nails
As the number 9 represents longevity and it is the emperor's number, the doors have 9 x 9 = 81 door nails. Rubbing the door nails also bring good luck, thus the above picture shows all of us getting our luck!

Look at the loooooooong stick that locks the door every night!
Another Gate
Beautiful roof structure
Map of the Forbidden City
The Hall of Supreme Harmony
What surprised me was most of the tourists there are all local tourists! Seldom see any foreigners even in such a tourist spot like The Forbidden City!

Coolest ground ever!
The picture above might look normal, but it is one of my favourite picture taken in Beijing! It is because I was standing on 15 layers of bricks below me. FIFTEEN LAYERS!!! These bricks are layered in different angles to prevent intruders to dig a tunnel from below to enter The Forbidden City and assassinate the emperor! How cool is that?!
Soldiers guarding the buildings
The Wooden Dragon Dome

Love the dome above in the Pavilion of a Thousand Autumns (Qianqiu). Beautifully carved wooden dragon at the center of the dome. 
One of the old trees in the Imperial Garden

3,800 meters moat
To think that once the highest ranking people in China live inside this little city is quite saddening. It is huge for a home, but not really that big once you realised that there is no coming out after you enter! Really cant help but to pity the maids, eunuchs and concubines in the olden days...

Overall, as a tourist, I was quite disappointed with The Forbidden City. I was expecting to see more artifacts such as the rooms, the jeweleries, costumes, etc of the ancient dynasties of China, but all we get to see is only the outside of the buildings! We didnt even get to see the famous emperor's throne! Maybe I had too much expectations after watching so many TVB series... lol... It was also very difficult to take photos as the place is very packed with tourists!

Hutongs are the traditional narrow streets or alleys in Beijing. They are formed by lines of traditional courtyard residences called SiHeYuan.
We also learned that the old traditional residences in Hutong does not have a toilet. They uses the shared public toilet for daily clean-up! Even in this Hutong that we visited, most of them still do not have a private toilet in their residence and is still using the public toilet! And in a China way, most of them does not have a door at each cubicle... =.=''
 We took a rickshaw and toured Hutong.
Rickshaws in Hutong
 We also visited one of the family that has been living in Hutong for a few generations.
In the courtyard of an old Hutong residence
Inside the House of a Hutong Family

Overall, the Hutong tour was not really very impressive. Just a simple touch of what was the old ancient Beijing culture and life. Maybe because it wasn't very much different from the Chinese culture in Malaysia.

Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán)
The Temple of Heaven consist of three important structures. 
While walking into the gardens, we spotted some really beautiful cherry blossoms and cant help but to stop and take some photos.
Cherry blossoms
 Then we walked across the garden and had the first view of the most beautiful structure in The Temple of Heaven - The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.
Sneak Peak
The The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is where the emperors will pray for good harvests for the country. This building is also built completely with wood and no nails!  Talk about impressive architects!
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
Beautiful tiles

At first I was confused as I thought there is only one important structure in Temple of Heaven. I was wrong as I was even more impressed with the second structure - Imperial Vault of Heaven.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven is surrounded by a smooth circular wall that is called the Echo Wall. 
Imperial Vault of Heaven & Echo Wall
By standing at the left of the building and if you whisper to the wall, the person standing at the right of the building can hear the whisper! We gave it a try and it really works!!!  I was really impressed and I love it!

The third structure was also a surprise for me. It is called the Circular Mound Alter. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones.
Circular Mound Alter
There are 9 steps to each 3 levels of the platforms. The center of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven or the Supreme Yang. Because of the design of the alter, the sound from the person standing at the Supreme Yang will be magnified, thus was believe to help to communicate the Emperor's prayers to the heaven for good weather. Of course, all of us gave it a try and it really works! Our voice when standing on the Supreme Yang felt like we were talking into a microphone!  

Not to forget, the number of tiles surrounding the Supreme Yang is always the multiple of 9. Which means the first circle consists of 9 tiles, then 18, then 27...up until 81 tiles. Very impressive structure huh?

On our way out, we also spotted an old lady practicing her chinese calligraphy on the tiles using a big brush dipped in water.
Chinese calligraphy with brush dipped in water

Upon leaving the Temple of Heaven, we were greeted by a breautiful view of sunset among the trees at the gardens.
Lovely view

I remember thinking, Day 1 in Beijing has been fun! Will Day 2 top that?

***to be continued.......

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